Answer: The response of the Allies to the persecution and destruction of European Jewry was inadequate. Only in January 1944 was an agency, the War Refugee Board, established for the express purpose of saving the victims of Nazi persecution. Prior to that date, little action was taken. On December 17, 1942, the Allies issued a condemnation of Nazi atrocities against the Jews, but this was the only such declaration made prior to 1944.
Moreover, no attempt was made to call upon the local population in Europe to refrain from assisting the Nazis in their systematic murder of the Jews. Even following the establishment of the War Refugee Board and the initiation of various rescue efforts, the Allies refused to bomb the death camp of Auschwitz and/or the railway lines leading to that camp, despite the fact that Allied bombers were at that time engaged in bombing factories very close to the camp and were well aware of its existence and function.
Other practical measures, which were not taken, concerned the refugee problem. Tens of thousands of Jews sought to enter the United States, but they were barred from doing so by the stringent American immigration policy. Even the relatively small quotas of visas which existed were often not filled, although the number of applicants was usually many times the number of available places. Conferences held in Evian, France (1938) and Bermuda (1943) to solve the refugee problem did not contribute to a solution. At the former, the countries invited by the United States and Great Britain were told that no country would be asked to change its immigration laws. Moreover, the British agreed to participate only if Palestine were not considered. At Bermuda, the delegates did not deal with the fate of those still in Nazi hands, but rather with the relatively fortunate few who had already escaped to neutral lands. Practical measures which could have aided in the rescue of Jews included the following: permission for temporary admission of refugees, relaxation of stringent entry requirements, frequent and unequivocal warnings to Germany and local populations all over Europe that those participating in the annihilation of Jews would be held strictly accountable, and the bombing of the death camp at Auschwitz.22. Who are the “Righteous Among the Nations”?
Answer: “Righteous Among the Nations” refers to those non-Jews who, at risk to their lives, aided Jews during the Holocaust. There were “Righteous Among the Nations” in every country overrun or allied with the Nazis, and their deeds often led to the rescue of Jewish lives. Yad Vashem, the Israeli national remembrance authority for the Holocaust, bestows special honors upon these individuals. To date, after carefully evaluating each case, Yad Vashem has recognized more than 22,000 “Righteous.” The country with the most “Righteous” is Poland. The country with the highest proportion (per capita) is the Netherlands. The figure of over 22,000 is far from complete, as many cases were never reported, frequently because those who were helped have died. Moreover, this figure only includes those who actually risked their lives to save Jews, and not those who extended aid without being under the threat of losing their lives.23. Were Jews in the Free World aware of the persecution and destruction of European Jewry and, if so, what was their response?
Answer: The news of the persecution and destruction of European Jewry must be divided into two periods. The measures taken by the Nazis prior to the “Final Solution” were all taken publicly and were, therefore, in all the newspapers. Foreign correspondents reported on all major anti-Jewish actions taken by the Nazis in Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia prior to World War II. Once the war began, obtaining information became more difficult, but, nonetheless, reports were published regarding the fate of the Jews.
The “Final Solution” was not openly publicized by the Nazis, and thus it took longer for information to reach the “Free World.” Nevertheless, by December 1942, news of the mass murders and the plan to annihilate European Jewry was publicized in the Jewish press.
The response of the Jews in the “Free World” must also be divided into two periods, before and after the publication of information on the “Final Solution.” Efforts during the early years of the Nazi regime concentrated on facilitating emigration from Germany (although there were those who initially opposed emigration as a solution) and combating German antisemitism. Unfortunately, the views on how to best achieve these goals differed and effective action was often hampered by the lack of internal unity. Moreover, very few Jewish leaders actually realized the scope of the danger. Following the publication of the news of the “Final Solution,” attempts were made to launch rescue attempts via neutral states and to send aid to Jews under Nazi rule. These attempts, which were far from adequate, were further hampered by the lack of assistance and obstruction from government channels. Additional attempts to achieve internal unity during this period failed.
24. Did the Jews in Europe realize what was going to happen to them?
Answer: Regarding the knowledge of the “Final Solution” by its potential victims, several key points must be kept in mind. First of all, the Nazis did not publicize the “Final Solution,” nor did they ever openly speak about it. Every attempt was made to fool the victims and, thereby, prevent or minimize resistance. Thus, deportees were always told that they were going to be “resettled.” They were led to believe that conditions “in the East” (where they were being sent) would be better than those in ghettos. Following arrival in certain concentration camps, the inmates were forced to write home about the good conditions in their new place of residence. The Germans made every effort to ensure secrecy. In addition, the notion that human beings—let alone the civilized Germans—could build camps with special apparatus for mass murder seemed unbelievable in those days. Since German troops liberated the Jews from the Czar in World War I, Germans were regarded by many Jews as a liberal, civilized people. Escapees who did return to the ghetto frequently encountered disbelief when they related their experiences. Even Jews who had heard of the camps had difficulty believing reports of what the Germans were doing there. Inasmuch as each of the Jewish communities in Europe was almost completely isolated, there was a limited number of places with available information. Thus, there is no doubt that many European Jews were not aware of the “Final Solution,” a fact that has been corroborated by German documents and the testimonies of survivors.25. How many Jews were able to escape from Europe prior to the Holocaust?
Answer: It is difficult to arrive at an exact figure for the number of Jews who were able to escape from Europe prior to World War II, since the available statistics are incomplete. From 1933-1939, 355,278 German and Austrian Jews left their homes. (Some immigrated to countries later overrun by the Nazis.) In the same period, 80,860 Polish Jews immigrated to Palestine and 51,747 European Jews arrived in Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. During the years 1938-1939, approximately 35,000 emigrated from Bohemia and Moravia (Czechoslovakia). Shanghai, the only place in the world for which one did not need an entry visa, received approximately 20,000 European Jews (mostly of German origin) who fled their homelands. Immigration figures for countries of refuge during this period are not available. In addition, many countries did not provide a breakdown of immigration statistics according to ethnic groups. It is impossible, therefore, to ascertain.